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After 2 years with no answers, nurse practitioner finally diagnoses sick teen from Niles

Local News

In a few weeks, a teenage girl from Niles will start her first band camp ever at the start of her senior year — she’s finally healthy enough to do so.

Christina Corturillo is 17-years-old, but being diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome — commonly called POTS — has taken away most of her teenage years.

“Really dizzy, heart rate’s really fast, couldn’t really walk well. I just felt awful,” Christina said.

“She was having migraines by the time she was 10, acid reflux, a lot of abdominal pain,” said Kathy Corturillo, Christina’s mom.

Christina was a competitive twirler, cheerleader and soccer player. But by her freshman year, she was so sick and so unable to move that she had to be homeschooled and was hospitalized for two weeks.

“It was bad. I couldn’t wash my hair, I couldn’t stand, I mean it was impossible to do anything,” Christina said.

“The first time I met her, I mean, she was a pretty sick little girl,” said Colleen Handwork.

That’s when Christina met Handwork, a pediatric nurse practitioner at Akron Children’s Hospital.

For two years, Christina kept being told her problems were mental.

“But it wasn’t right and I knew it wasn’t right,” Christina said.

Handwork was the one who finally diagnosed Christina with POTS, which pools blood in the lower extremities, sending the heart rate up and blood pressure down.

“I see it a lot. Every week I probably get one to two new patients with POTS,” Handwork said.

Christina was put on blood pressure medication, steroids and beta-blockers, but with no guarantee they would work.

“And that’s the frustrating part, there’s just no recipe that says oh this will fix you,” Handwork said.

But it fixed Christina, and this year she’ll be part of the Niles High School drill team.

“I feel great. I feel like I can just take on the world,” Christina said.

“So happy, so happy,” Kathy said.

“I’m so happy for her and her mom, awesome family,” Handwork said.

Christina plans on attending college and wants to work in a hospital as a child life specialist, working with children and providing them with emotional support.

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